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When he was 16, Berke left home to live at an elite Bradenton-based tennis camp run by Bollettieri's father, tennis legend Nick Bollettieri. "Tennis was my life 24/7," Berke says. "I always assumed I'd turn pro."
In fact, he begged his parents to do so. But when Yale offered Berke a tennis scholarship, William Berke put his foot down. "The truth is we insisted that he go to Yale. He would have turned pro otherwise," William says. "We wanted him to have a fallback."
It turned out to be a wise move. Berke earned All-American honors at Yale in 2001 when he went undefeated all season and then made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. He repeated as an All-American in 2003 after transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. (He still received his degree from Yale.)
After graduating the next year, he entered the pro circuit. But in one of his first tournaments, in Mexico, he severely herniated two discs in his back.
"I was stuck for two weeks because I couldn't even fly. It still hurts sometimes," he says before turning on the shtick. "I've had a lot of sex injuries, actually. Those low-lying floor beds may be chic in South Beach, but they're not good for sex with a bad back."
After a career that saw him ranked in the top five among young Americans and victories in dozens of tournaments, Berke was done with tennis forever.
His dad, worried about the depression that might follow, pushed him to try something radically different. In New Haven, Berke had discovered a talent for acting while playing out Hamlet scenes in theater classes. So he persuaded his son to attend a tryout for the first season of Donald Trump's reality show, The Apprentice.
Berke made it to the final round of casting, which included a urethra swab to test for STDs. "The doctor stuck this umbrella up my cock, and it was horrible," Berke recalls. "He told me it was a great sign they were going to choose me, though. And then I ended up the first alternate, praying someone else tested positive for herpes."
It didn't happen, but the producers recommended Berke for another show in the works: Sir Richard Branson's knockoff, The Rebel Billionaire, which featured contestants racing the globe to compete for a job in Branson's Virgin Group.
Berke spent weeks dashing from New York to Hong Kong to Zimbabwe, dangling from waterfalls and pitching business ideas to the mogul. He came in eighth, getting booted in Marrakesh, Morocco, after failing to track down Branson in the desert. The show was a cross between The Apprentice and Fear Factor, and Berke played the part of the good-natured, fratty jokester.
"The show actually helped me a lot to cope with life without tennis," he says. "It's a real mind-fuck to lose the game when your life has always revolved around it."
Afterward, Berke spent a few months setting up a business selling a neck support for airline travelers — called the Moosh Pillow — that he'd pitched during one episode. When it didn't take off, he got a real estate job. "I hated every second of it," Berke says. "I had to try something else."
It wasn't the kind of post his Yalie friends were snagging in D.C. and L.A., so two years ago, he started showing up at open-mike nights at Miami Improv and other local clubs. Those turned into opening slots for bigger comics such as Pauly Shore. "At my first gig, I made all these jokes about Obama right after the election. At least half the audience was black. I thought I might be killed," he says. "I didn't get it yet that you have to make fun of yourself before turning it on other people."
Last spring, his comedy career took a turn when he met friends in L.A. and spent a week shooting video parodies, including a pro-marijuana remake of Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie."
The video, called "Should Be Legalized," features drop-dead-gorgeous Dutch model and singer Charlotte Bruyn and Berke rapping the verses. The clip went viral, notching more than 400,000 hits before YouTube decided it was too racy and rated it NC-17.
Meanwhile, pro-legalization groups such as NORML drafted Berke and his video for their efforts. He hosted an event at Burger & Beer Joint during last fall's failed effort to get marijuana decriminalization on the ballot in Miami Beach. That was his first inkling that his comedy could intersect with his politics.
Then, in November, Berke was in New York at the wedding of a friend from one of Yale's secret societies — "not Skull and Bones," Berke says, though he refused to name which one — when he drunkenly mentioned the idea of running for Miami Beach mayor. "I never planned to actually do it," he says. "There are way too many embarrassing pictures of me online. Just go on Facebook; there are thousands of pictures of me drunk. But the more I thought about it, the more I was like, 'The mayor of Miami Beach should know how to party,'" Berke says.
just like reagan, a b move actor made it with no experience, so why not berke. just remember he just like all those nazi.s that where elected last year, and who will be out of a job in 2012
His platform is alright. Now the question is keeping all his promises, what consequence is he willing to pay for failing to follow through?
Having been on the beach a very long time, you learn who to stay away from. These three guys and their friends are those people. When you hang with people like this you are judged as an idiot loser. They will use you up and spit you out, seriously, they don't care about anyone but themselves. As for how they treat women is another matter all together ! Girls, if you are hanging out with these guys, you are being pimped out and will eventually get into trouble, Gaurenteed!!! Take it from me, I know first hand.
Oh Brother, now we have the clown with the big red rubber nose trying to replace the clown with the big floppy shoes.
hmm let's see the guy backing him was in on Watergate....I am NOT GOING TO SAY 1 WORD!!! ONLY in Miami.... Can anyone figure out why I moved 1600 miles away???
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Yep this corrupt clown will sodomize the beach taxpayers Republican style- suck them all dry and run off with the $$$$ while he keeps them all laughing...no kiss the next morning. Bunch of idiots WOULD vote for this little weasle!
my son played him numerous times in junior tennis tournaments and he was one of those under constant pressure by his overbearing father - win at all costs. Guess that's what it takes to be a successful politician.
I disagree with you both, Miami has been the capital of corrupt cities since the 1930s, the white, Italians and blacks have been making as stink down here since the beginnings, but Cubans have taken corruption in Miami to its highest possible peaks.